Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The Sun and Nuclear Power Plants

  1. Nov 9, 2005 #1
    Nuclear Power Plants and the Sun

    I need some help again...:frown:

    1. What are the fuel sources?

    2. How is the fuel used to produce/release energy?

    3. What are the similarities in the way they produce energy?

    4. Are there any health hazards associated with the way they produce energy?

    5. Why is energy released when the nuclear reactions take place? Talk about this using your research on the forces that hold the nucleus of an atom together.

    Those are the questions in the chart. The two things being compared are "Nuclear Power Plant (Not Fossil Fueled)" and "the Sun".
    I have the first two answered... 1. (Nuclear) A nuclear power plant’s fuel source is Uranium. (Sun) The Sun’s fuel sources are hydrogen and helium. 2. (Nuclear) Energy is produced/released through fission. (Sun) Energy is produced/released through fusion.

    If any of that is wrong, let me know.:biggrin:

    Anyways, the teacher gave us seven different links to use and that's too much for me to handle. Why he can't give us a few links is beyond me but looking at seven different links only to find that at least four of them confuse you is really very irritating (Some make me feel like I'm jumping into the middle of something after having missed the beginning). I'd appreciate it if someone could give me a link or a few links to sites that would answer my questions but explain everything in my language...in other words, this is my weak subject, please don't explain something to me using words and phrases I may mistake for Russian.:rofl:

    I'd take either a link or an explanation from a person, either way, I can't hack going through pages and pages of unrelated information.

    EDIT: Tell me, does http://www.astro.uva.nl/demo/od95/" [Broken] particular link have anything to do with my worksheet because I got to where they were talking about solar winds or whatever and realized I still didn't have any actual answers.:grumpy:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 10, 2005 #2
    Helium is not a fuel in the Sun. For fusion of Helium atoms to take place, there has to be enormous amounts of pressure and heat. Stars start to burn up helium when they start wondering off of the main-sequence and are becoming red-giants.

  4. Nov 10, 2005 #3
    So, besides that, what I have down is right? I read that Helium is a fuel somewhere so I'll have to double check.

    Does anyone have a link for me though? I'd appreciate a link or hands on help...well, as hands on as one could get online.:rofl:
  5. Nov 10, 2005 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Well you're right on #1 and #2.

    The only basically similarity is that nuclear processes are involved, the potential nuclear energy is transformed into thermal (kinetic) energy. Otherwise nuclear (fission) reactors and the Sun are entirely different.

    Perhaps some other similarities -

    They both require a critical mass to maintain the process, and they both produce reactants (generically 'ash'), which affect the ability maintain the process.

    In nuclear fission, there needs to be sufficient U-235 (or U-233, or Pu-239) to achieve and maintain the 'chain-reaction'. As the enrichment (fraction) of U-235 or other fissile isotopes increases, the critical mass decreases. Similarly, there is a minimum mass for a large mass of H to become a star.

    Both fission and fusion generate gamma-radiation, and X-ray radiation, both of which are harmful to humans - so shielding of reactors is required. The Sun is just far away - but enough UV light reaches the earth that some protection is needed - Ozone layer, atmosphere, and clothing or sun-screen, and shelter/shade.

    Reactors produce radioactive by-products (spent nuclear fuel) which needs to be segregated from the environment and living things.

    #5 - Binding energy - http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/nucbin.html#c1 (look at second plate) as well as your text.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook